By Mike Deak
WATERFORD MILLS – Aaron Rodgers made famous an eventual meme collection with the emphasized word “Reeellaaaaaxxxx.” It’s very likely Elizabeth Miller wasn’t channeling the Packers quarterback, but she was insisting her team needed to find a similar zen.
Miller’s ‘Let’s Go. We’re OK!’ during a critical stretch of the second game of what would become Wawasee’s big rally started the movement that led to a 3-1 volleyball win at Bethany Christian Thursday night.
With the Bruins already up a set and the second game sitting at 16-16, Miller turned to her teammates after Wawasee scored a point to take the lead and sent the message. The Lady Warriors would quickly score the game’s next three points, then take a 22-18 edge after Emma Dippon tipped over a pair of winners.
The Lady Warriors would go on to win the game 25-19, and began to ease some of the tension Bethany’s 25-22 win in game one sent through the Wawasee half of The Mennolands.
“Probably for the first time in a while, we’re finding that teams won’t be able to stack on us and just take away one girl,” said Wawasee head coach Jeff Phillips. “We’ve got more firepower this year, that’s legit, since I’ve been here. There’s an outside hitter, two middles, people who can put away balls in tight moments. In a situation like tonight when our back was against the wall, we didn’t rely on one person to bail us out. We had five or six do it.”
Though Wawasee had leveled the score at 1-1, Bethany hadn’t faded away, but rather took a 7-2 lead in the third after a pair of Sadie Brenneman aces. In the pivotal moments that had the game at 24-22 in favor of the hosts, Wawasee didn’t panic facing game point in getting a kill from Dippon and a Bethany error to tie the game at 24. After trading the next four points to sit at 26-all, a Bethany serving error was followed by a Bailey Mayhew ace to cap the 28-26 third, and all the momentum Wawasee could find.
“You look at game three and we’re up 22-18, feeling pretty good, then all of a sudden it’s 24-22 and we’re like ahhh,” quipped Phillips. “We were able to sustain, tie it back up, and then win that game. Going back to the Lakeland loss earlier this week, where we didn’t do that, we are now starting to do it more often than not. It was just easy things to clean up.”
Game four was all Wawasee, as the Warriors ran off nine straight points to grab a commanding 19-8 advantage and an eventual 25-14 capper.
Somewhat quietly amongst the court action was a program record that fell for Wawasee. Amanda Allen would get credit for 48 assists, breaking a 19-year-old record of 47 in a match set by Candace Brown in 2001. While Dippon’s 14 kills were mixed in with some very timely conversions, Leslie Vazquez led a trio of Wawasee bombers in double figures with 16 kills. The senior do-it-all also had five blocks and 12 digs, working all angles of the court, both sides.
Mayhew added 12 kills, 11 digs and four blocks, Miller had 14 digs and Dylan Konieczny chipped in eight kills and six blocks from the outside.
“Amanda did a great job tonight of finding our middles and letting them do what they do best, which is put away kills,” said Phillips, whose team moves to 4-1 on the season. “Amanda is realizing that we can score points when the ball is just up there so they can go get it. Let Leslie go get it. Let Bailey go get it. And, oh by the way, Emma Dippon is our No. 3 option on the outside and he can crush the ball. That’s starting to come together for us, as evident tonight.”
Emma Siri’s 13 digs and eight kills paced Wawasee’s JV team (7-1) to a 25-23, 25-20 win over the Bruins. Emma Young had 17 assists and Zoe Taylor pitched in five aces.
Wawasee’s varsity returns to work Saturday at the Westview Invite, where it will take on both Bethany Christian and Central Noble, both opponents from this week, as part of its pool play. The JV retakes the court Monday in hosting the Goshen Blue Blazers.